Sunday, July 24, 2011

Nintendo Time Shock (タイムショック, 1972)

In the second half of the 60s, Nintendo became successful through a number of initiative toys like the Ultra Hand and Ultra Machine. However, between 1965 and 1975, they also produced a large number of more traditional toys, board games and other family games for the Japanese market. During this period Nintendo closely followed the new developments in the toy industry in Japan as well as abroad and licensed or copied other companies' hits.

Nintendo Time Shock (1972)

In most cases when copying a game, Nintendo added some twists to the original design. This was most likely (also) done to distinguish enough from the original and thus prevent legal action, but frequently went beyond change-for-change-sake and actually enhanced or improved the game-play.

A good example of this is Time Shock (タイムショック).

We will get to the original game in minute (if you haven't already recognized it), but let's first take a look at Nintendo's creation, which is credited to Gunpei Yokoi.

Time Shock was released by Nintendo in Japan in 1972 and was sold for ¥1.800.

The box contained the Time Shock game and a bag with orange plastic puzzle pieces.

The bottom of the game contains a lid which can be turned to reveal two storage spaces.

The puzzle pieces neatly fit in these storage spaces.

In total 20 puzzle pieces are included. They all have different shapes, though some are mirrored pairs, which adds to the difficulty of the game. Four small pins are also included, used to keep track of the best scores of (up to) four players.

I expect many will have guessed that the inspiration for Nintendo's Time Shock is MB's Perfection, one of their famous toys - which is being sold to this day.

MB Perfection (2003 version)
[image taken from]

The game was actually not created by MB, but by an American company called Reed Toys from Conshohocken, PA. Their patent states 1970 as the priority date.

From US patent 3,710,455 by Reed Toys (priority date 1970-11-20)

Reed Toys released the toy under the Perfection name, and soon also licensed it to fellow American companies Lakeside Toys (from Minneapolis, MN - famous for, amongst others, creating the "Barrel of Monkeys" game) and toy giant MB.

Lakeside simply put their logo on the version by Reed toys, but MB redesigned the game - keeping the game-play completely intact from the original, though.

In Japan it was Epoch who licensed Perfection from Reed Toys, and Nintendo clearly wanted to compete with them with the release of Time Shock.

Nintendo's innovation lies in the blue ring, which can be turned. This allows for ten different layouts of the play-field, which prevents players from memorizing the position of the puzzle pieces.

The objective of the game is simple: put the twenty puzzle pieces in the correct space on the play-field.

What makes Time Shock interesting is the race against the clock. You set the timer to 60 seconds and start puzzling. When you have placed all pieces correctly you stop the clock, by moving the red ring around the timer. The remaining seconds indicate your score: the more time left the better.

However! If you do not menage to finish the puzzle in time and stop the clock, when the time runs out the pieces will all jump in the air, and your score will be zero. The ticking timer and the prospect of these flying pieces add greatly to the tension.

Practice also makes perfect for this game, but the Nintendo added option to change the play-field before each runs helps increase the longevity of the challenge. It does not become too easy too quickly.

You have just ran out of time. Shock!

The game does not require any batteries; it works on a spring which is wound when you set the timer.

A portable version of Time Shock was also produced as part of Nintendo's Mini Game Series.

Nintendo Mini Game series version of Time Shock (1974)

The objective of the game is still the same, but this time only 15 puzzle pieces are involved.

The timer is replaced by a clever little mechanism. The game starts by moving the bird to the top and gently touching the spring which attaches it to the pole. The vibrations of the moving bird on the spring make it climb slowly down.

You need to finish the puzzle before the bird reaches the ground, which takes about half a minute. Making the pieces fly in the air you have to do yourself in this version, but it is still fun nonetheless.

We close this post with a short video demonstration.


  1. The practical design on the bottom of the device is particularly interesting. While most board games or devices of this sort would leave the assorted pieces in a bag or on the device, the storage on the bottom proves to be incredibly useful. Thank you for an other video of this in action as well!

  2. I just had to drop by and say that I love this blog. The images are amazing!

    I loved how you included information on the Mini Game series version this time. I'd love to see a post about them, does anyone have a complete list of how many of those that were released and which they are?

  3. @anonymous: thanks for the kind words. i will definitely post a story about the entire Mini Game series in the (not too distant) future. Including a full list. Stay tuned!

  4. Great! I can't wait!

  5. For an overview of the Mini Game series, please check out this post: